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How Stories Solved Instagram's Biggest Threat: Self-Conscious Users
By: Fast Company
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Robby Stein remembers when Kevin Systrom was just another startup guy, who’d created a photo sharing app called Instagram. They knew each other working at Google. Systrom’s idea for the thing was all around instant sharing—to capture fleeting moments, like a dog you met or going to the park. "People would comment, and then you’d have a conversation," recalls Stein. And yet a funny thing happened on Instagram’s march to 500 million users. The photo service that had been meant to be instant morphed into something less like a stack of polaroids and more like museum catalogue. The reason? Likes.

They had seemed like such an obvious thing to add. But over the years, it became clear that the service became less about sharing what you were doing. Rather, people would post photos, and then wait to see the likes roll in. Stein’s team talked to dozens and dozens of users, probing for what might be keeping them from spending more time in the app. They kept hearing about a fear of spamming people, and the pressure to post something popular. A feedback loop had set in, and reinforced itself: Likes made users more self-conscious about what they were posting, at the same time that improving cameras and Instagram stars were steadily raising the bar of what counted as a great Instagram post. "It started feeling like Instagram was for highlights rather than what was going on now," says Stein, who today is a product lead at Instagram, working with his old friend Systrom. Though Instagram declines to say if the company saw reduced engagement, it's not hard to see where the trend was going: A space dominated by highlight moments that became less frequent over time, as "highlight" was defined ever upward.

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About the Author
This article was published on Fast Company. A link to the original piece appears after the post. www.fastcompany.com
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